Media Briefings

SUPPORTING VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: An innovative and effective intervention in the UK

  • Published Date: April 2017

Quickly assigning a ‘victim engagement worker’ to help people who are experiencing domestic violence has increased reported satisfaction with how the police handle these incidents. It has also encouraged victims to report further incidents of violence, according to research by Martin Foureaux Koppensteiner and Jesse Matheson, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society's annual conference at the University of Bristol in April 2017.

Leicestershire Police recently trialled a service in which victims of domestic violence are contacted by an engagement worker within 24 hours of police responding to the incident. The engagement worker is an expert in assisting victims of domestic violence and is embedded with the police force.

To test the effectiveness of victim engagement workers, Leicestershire Police ran a randomised controlled trial over six months, the first of its type in the UK. The results show that victims who received the intervention were significantly less likely to report being dissatisfied with police handling of their case, and state a willingness to report future incidents of violence to police that is 40% higher than a control group.

The authors comment: ‘Our evaluation reveals a positive impact of the intervention on a number of outcomes. This highlights a need for a rapid response to incidents, particularly in organising the face-to-face assistance.’

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The Leicestershire Police Force responded to 17,396 reported domestic offences and incidents in the one-year period beginning April 2013. Approximately 20% of all these reports, about seven every day, involved victims who had experienced three or more reported incidents of domestic violence over the previous 365 day period.

The 2014 HMIC report Everyone’s business: Improving the police response to domestic violence pointed out the need for police to improve the effectiveness of their services to victims of domestic violence, a call recently echoed by Prime Minister May’s announcement of directly overseeing the creation of new laws to deal with domestic abuse in England and Wales.

In this study we evaluate an innovative intervention in policing domestic violence targeting victims, which experience repeat police callouts. In the intervention, a victim engagement worker makes telephone contact with victims within 24 hours of police responding to a domestic incident.

The engagement worker has expertise in assisting victims of domestic violence and, unlike currently available victim support services, works from within the police force. Being embedded within the police means that the engagement workers are able to react to new domestic incidents as they are reported and can actively, and quickly, make contact with victims. This contrasts with traditional support services, which rely on victims to make contact after an incident.

Once contact is made, the engagement worker will assist victims should they wish to make a statement to police, and acts as a mediator between the police and local domestic violence support services. The swift phone contact is often followed up by face-to-face visits between engagement workers and victims to provide further assistance. This includes providing inform about existing local services and providing victims with referrals and assistance to access services.

Leicestershire Police initially ran the intervention over a six-month period as a randomised controlled trial. This is the first randomised controlled study of this kind for the UK and, with more than 1,000 cases in the subject pool, it constitutes one of the largest randomised controlled trials in domestic violence to date.

We evaluate the effect of this intervention on a wide range of outcomes including statements made to police, repeat reports of domestic violence in the 12-month period following the initial incident and survey evidence on victim use of services and attitudes towards police.

The evaluation reveals a positive impact of the intervention on a number of outcomes. For example, relative to the control group, victims who received the intervention are significantly less likely to report being dissatisfied with police handling of their case and state a willingness to report future incidents of violence to police, which is 40% higher compared with the control group.

Our evaluation also reveals opportunities for the potential to improve the intervention design. Specifically, the intervention led to an unexpected 20% decrease in victim statements to police. This highlights a need for a rapid response to incidents, particularly in organising the face-to-face assistance, in the design of similar programmes.

ENDS


‘Information and the Engagement of Repeat Victims of Domestic Violence: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial’
Martin Foureaux Koppensteiner and Jesse Matheson